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The Globe and Mail

Canada aims to end 20-year Olympic medal drought in alpine skiing

Manuel Osborne-Paradis While there is still time for other people to qualify, three athletes were named to the Canadian Olympic Men's alpine ski team at Casa Loma in Toronto on Jan. 8, 2014. ,

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The record books show Ed Podivinsky competed in three Olympics as a downhill skier for Canada – 1994 in Lillehammer, 1998 in Nagano and 2002 in Salt Lake City.

What is oft-overlooked is he also was a member of Canada's Olympic family for the first time in 1992, when the Winter Games were held in Albertville.

"My first Olympics was a throwaway," Podivinsky, 43, remarked wryly Wednesday in Toronto. "It's not even mentioned."

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It is not mentioned because Podivinsky crashed in the last training run for the men's downhill event, tearing a ligament in his right knee and shelving him for the main event.

It was like he wasn't even there, although he was, at least for a little bit – soaking up the Olympic atmosphere and gaining invaluable experience along the way.

Podivinsky put it all to good use at the 1994 Games, where he took the bronze medal in the downhill.

Surprisingly, given the strength and depth of the country's teams over the years, it remains the last medal Canada has been able to earn in alpine skiing at the Olympics.

It is a 20-year drought, one the Canada hopes to erase come next month, when members of the "Canadian Cowboys" mount up at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Canadian Olympic Committee officially welcomed three of the male skiers who hope to be able to step onto the medal podium in Russia during a news conference at historic Casa Loma on Wednesday morning.

And like Podivinsky 20 years ago, all three – Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver and Jan Hudec of Calgary – will go in having already experienced the pressure cooker of an Olympic competition.

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For both Guay and Osborne-Paradis, it will be their third Olympic venture, while it will be Hudec's second after debuting in Vancouver four years ago.

"I'm getting pretty good at going to the Olympics," Osborne-Paradis said. "I'd like to get even better at maybe getting a medal."

Osborne-Paradis was the only one of the three skiers who was able to get to Toronto for the event with the recent deep freeze delaying flights into Pearson Airport.

If the performance of the trio so far on the World Cup circuit means anything – and to Podivinsky it means plenty – any one of the three should be considered a medal threat in Sochi.

In early December, Osborne-Paradis – a three time World Cup event winner – just narrowly missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the downhill event at Beaver Creek, Colo.

Hudec followed that up with a second-place in the super G in Val Gardena, Italy, the same weekend when Guay took the gold in the downhill event.

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A week later, Guay pulled off a third in the downhill in Bormio, Italy, his 21st career podium appearance – breaking the Canadian record previously held by Steve Podborski.

"To have three podiums and a near miss at this time is great for our team and it really shows that we have momentum building in the right direction at the right time," Osborne-Paradis said.

Podivinsky, who is now working as a global institutional equity salesman in Toronto for Royal Bank of Canada, said the recent good fortunes for the Canadian racers bodes well heading into Sochi.

"The Olympics is an odd kind of race," Podivinsky said. "It's a one-off and you have four years to prepare for it.

"You just hope all those elements line up, and they're lining up for these guys right now."

From his perspective, Podivinsky said, Guay, Osborne-Paradis and Hudec are kind of like interchangeable parts, each with the skill to win on a given day. And they are all peaking at the right time.

"Guys that don't have that momentum will be trying to change their game, trying to change the way they ski, their equipment, their wax," Podivinsky said. "They'll try to do things differently. Where as these guys, they know that they've got the right game, they're bringing the right game, because they've been on the podium. They don't have to reach for anything, they've just got to execute what's been working for them."

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